[REVIEW] : Send a message from WhatsApp to Snapchat, the difficult promise of the European Union

Interoperability. Behind this long word hides the decompartmentalization of messaging that the EU wants to impose on tech giants by the beginning of 2023. The idea is to “give more choice” to Internet users, according to the press release published Thursday.

With this regulation called “DMA”, it is a question of allowing those who use “smaller platforms” to “exchange messages, send files and make video calls” with users of major applications, without having to download them.

Write from WhatsApp to Snapchat or Telegram without changing app, soon possible?

Being able to communicate easily from WhatsApp to Snapchat or Telegram without changing applications is what the European Union promises as part of its new regulation announced on Thursday; a prospect viewed as a user win by some and a risk to their data by others.

Interoperability. Behind this long word hides the decompartmentalization of messaging services that the EU wants to impose on tech giants by the start of 2023. The idea is to “give more choice” to Internet users, according to the press release published on Thursday.

With this regulation called “DMA”, it is a question of allowing those who use “smaller platforms” to “exchange messages, send files and make video calls” with users of major applications, without having to download them.

But for Benedict Evans, an independent analyst, the idea that the only difference between messengers “is their logo” is “a naive idea”, he launched on Twitter. “These are systems, and connecting them together raises all sorts of questions.”

The one that comes up most often concerns the security of personal data. How to guarantee to a user that he does not expose himself by communicating with another messenger? WhatsApp, a subsidiary of Meta (ex-Facebook), has implemented systematic end-to-end encryption (from author to recipient) of all messages, including in discussion groups.

On the other hand, Telegram does not offer it by default, and Snapchat only provides it for photos and videos, not for written messages. Also, saying that “because all couriers use different algorithms for encryption, and some are the same, they can communicate (…) is a misconception,” says cybersecurity expert Alec Muffett.

“Between difficult and impossible”

For Benedict Evans, DMA is “a compromise, a measure that is good for competition but bad for privacy and bad for products. You can’t have all three at the same time.”

“Interoperability with end-to-end encryption is somewhere between the extremely difficult and the impossible”, abounded, on Twitter, Steve Bellovin, professor at Columbia University and specialist in data protection. And beyond message encryption, “say you receive (on another messenger) a message from a WhatsApp user named SteveBellovin. Is it me? A pirate ? Someone with the same name?” “From a technical point of view, it’s not particularly complex,” retorts Ian Brown, a specialist in internet regulation. “Major groups have opposed it precisely because the lack of interoperability is one of the essential factors of their dominance.”

For him, it is possible to develop standards and protocols that form the basis of interoperability, as has been the case for electronic mail, 3D animation or machine learning (artificial intelligence), the last two via the Khronos association.

Alec Muffett compares messengers to restaurants. Protocols would mean that each messenger “should serve the same menu, and there would be no more differences. I hope that won’t happen, because I use different tools (messaging) for different purposes.” The EU has, for this time, left aside the interoperability of social networks, but already plans to examine it one day.

Tim Sweeney, whose publisher created the game Fortnite, is already dreaming further. “One day, we will move on to content (movies, series, games) and then to network games with compatibility across the metaverse”.

Being able to send a message from WhatsApp to Snapchat, revolution or false good idea?

Being able to communicate easily from WhatsApp to Snapchat or Telegram without changing applications is what the European Union promises as part of its new regulations announced on Thursday. A prospect viewed as a user win by some and a risk to their data by others.

Interoperability. Behind this long word hides the decompartmentalization of messaging services that the EU wants to impose on tech giants by the start of 2023. The idea is to “give more choice” to Internet users, according to the press release published on Thursday.

With this regulation called “DMA”, it is a question of allowing those who use “smaller platforms” to “exchange messages, send files and make video calls” with users of major applications, without having to download them.

“The fact that we are at a time in computer history where this type of interoperability must be the subject of a law is fascinating”, commented, on Twitter, Mar Hicks, professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

But for Benedict Evans, an independent analyst, the idea that the only difference between messengers “is their logo” is “a naive idea”, he launched on Twitter. “These are systems, and connecting them together raises all sorts of questions.”

The one that comes up most often concerns the security of personal data. How to guarantee to a user that he does not expose himself by communicating with another messenger?

WhatsApp, a subsidiary of Meta (ex-Facebook), has implemented systematic end-to-end encryption (from author to recipient) of all messages, including in discussion groups.

On the other hand, Telegram does not offer it by default, and Snapchat only provides it for photos and videos, not for written messages.

Also, saying that “because all couriers use different algorithms for encryption, and some are the same, they can communicate (…) is a misconception,” says cybersecurity expert Alec Muffett.

“Between difficult and impossible”

For Benedict Evans, DMA is “a compromise, a measure that is good for competition but bad for privacy and bad for products. You can’t have all three at the same time.”

“Interoperability with end-to-end encryption is somewhere between the extremely difficult and the impossible”, abounded, on Twitter, Steve Bellovin, professor at Columbia University and specialist in data protection.

And beyond message encryption, “say you receive (on another messenger) a message from a WhatsApp user named SteveBellovin. Is it me? A pirate? Someone with the same name?”

“From a technical point of view, it’s not particularly complex,” replies Ian Brown, a specialist in internet regulation. “Major groups have opposed it precisely because the lack of interoperability is one of the essential factors of their dominance.”

For him, it is possible to develop standards and protocols that form the basis of interoperability, as has been the case for electronic mail, 3D animation or machine learning (artificial intelligence), the last two via the Khronos association.

Alec Muffett compares messengers to restaurants. Protocols would mean that each messenger “should serve the same menu, and there would be no more differences. I hope that won’t happen, because I use different tools (messaging) for different purposes.”

The EU has, for this time, left aside the interoperability of social networks, but already plans to examine it one day.

Tim Sweeney, whose publisher created the game Fortnite, is already dreaming further. “One day, we will move on to content (movies, series, games) and then to network games with compatibility across the metaverse”.